Saturday, 23 March 2013

Why I Love Eric by Terry Pratchett

“‘Multiple exclamation marks,’ he went on, shaking his head ‘are a sure sign of a diseased mind.’”


Ahem. I aten’t crazy. 

Like a lot of people I first read Pratchett when I was a teenager and have stuck with him well into adulthood. So, going through a dry spell in reading where everything I picked up seemed to, well, suck, I was immediately drawn to a small paperback that’d fallen off my shelf - “Eric”, a book I haven’t read since I was 12 (I’m now 28). Coming to a beloved book after 16 years is great as you know you’ll like it and you’ve all but forgotten everything in the story.

Eric is the Disc’s first demonologist hacker who summons a demon to grant him three wishes. Except the “demon” is Rincewind, the Disc’s most inept wizzard (the second z is intentional as Rincewind can’t spell), who happens to have gotten stuck in the Dungeon Dimensions and, by chance, wound up in a teenage boy’s bedroom. The three wishes Eric asks for - To be Ruler of the World; To Meet the Most Beautiful Woman in All History; and To Live Forever, should be easy to arrange. I mean, when have wishes ever gone wrong for anybody in a story, especially one with “Faust” crossed out on the cover? 

I’m delighted to say that my impressions of the novel haven’t changed in 16 years and that I still loved reading this. It’s still fresh and funny and fast paced and so damn entertaining. It reminded me exactly why I fell in love with Pratchett’s Discworld in the first place and what propelled me through all of his books so quickly. 

Here are some quotes from the novel that I adored: 

“The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.”

“Rincewind had been told that death was just like going into another room. The difference is, when you shout ‘Where’s my clean socks?’, no-one answers.”

“No enemies had ever taken Ankh-Morpork. Well technically they had, quite often; they city welcomed free-spending barbarian invaders, but somehow the puzzled raiders found, after a few days, that they didn’t own their horses any more, and within a couple of months they were just another minority group with its own graffiti and food shops.”

Great, right? 

It also makes me sad to see the decline in his writing recently. I got through a third of “Snuff” in about a month and gave up thereafter. I haven’t returned to it in nearly a year. Also, those Tiffany Aching books are pretty diabolical - I know they’re aimed at “Young Adults” but really, kids can read the “adult” Discworld books. I did, and I turned out fine. Plus the adult humour is really subtle and will go over a kid’s head. I didn’t pick up on it when I was 12 but at 28? Yeah I noticed it. Pratchett’s really clever like that and his books can be read for all ages. Those Aching books are just pandering and condescending. Kids, teenagers, are smarter than that and should just read the regular Discworld stuff rather than go for Discworld Lite. And yes, I realise the decline in writing is linked to his Alzheimer’s which I couldn’t be more saddened by, but still. Reading this early Discworld book and comparing it to his most recent one is really eye-opening. There aren’t any quotes from “Snuff” that I’d type out to read to myself over and over, unlike “Eric”. 

“Eric” is set after the events of “Sourcery” but before “Interesting Times” - both books I encourage you to seek out if you enjoyed this - but it can be read as standalone book too. It might even be the best introduction to the new reader of Pratchett. Rincewind and the amazing Luggage (a steamer trunk with dozens of tiny legs that’s sentient but silent) are the main characters, there are appearances from Death and the Librarian, and you get a tour of the Disc courtesy of the three wishes that takes Rincewind and Eric across time and space. The story is straightforward and you don’t need to have read the half dozen or so titles that preceded it - it’s a satire on the legendary Faust story. Seriously, you can just jump on board with this book and, if you like Pratchett’s style, continue on your way. And due to it’s shortness, It’s the perfect sampler. 

I have to mention the Luggage - I’d forgotten why I was so enchanted with the Rincewind stories and it’s partly RIncewind for his cowardly wit, but it’s also for the Luggage. They’ve got this great chemistry like a buddy cop story where one of the cops doesn’t speak and might be homicidal. Luggage has some amazing scenes in this as well, particularly his introduction which is so fantastic and funny so I won’t spoil it here. And Pratchett’s humour has never been more prevalent than in this story. Here are some more quotes I loved: 

“There’s a door”
“Where does it go?”
“It stays where it is, I think”

“What’re quantum mechanics?”
“I don’t know. People who repair quantums, I suppose”

And these two gems about war:

“The consensus seemed to be that if really large numbers of men were sent to storm the mountain, then enough might survive the rocks to take the citadel. This is essentially the basis of all military thinking.”

“The sergeant put on the poker face which has been handed down from NCO to NCO ever since one protoamphibian told another, lower ranking protoamphibian to muster a squad of newts and Take That Beach.”

“Eric” is just a really, really fun read. I loved it, it was just what I needed to remind me why I love reading and that a truly good book trumps nearly everything else in the world. 

Never read Pratchett? Check out “Eric”. Been a while since you read early Pratchett? Check out “Eric”.

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